You might be wondering how in the world a plant gets a name like chaste tree. There are a number of stories that link the tree to superstitions, such as the herb having the power to cool the libido. If you were a medieval monk living a chaste life in a monastery, or a lonely Grecian wife whose husband was fighting in faraway lands, then supposedly this was the herb to curb your misery. It is also said Athenian maidens would put leaves under their beds during the festival of Thesmophoria to help keep them on the straight and narrow.
Well, it’s not likely you are going to encounter many credible doctors who prescribe chaste tree, also known by the botanical name Vitex agnus-castus, as a means of birth control. There is no scientific research that justifies it for that use. However, there is research that suggests chaste tree can play a helpful role in balancing hormones. These studies typically feature one of two Vitex extracts: BNO 1095 and Ze 110. The dosage of chaste tree that is recommended for daily use is 150-250 mg.
As it turns out, chaste tree is one of those body nourishing plants that look good in your yard, too. The tree, which was cultivated in China as early as the seventeenth century, is also native to the Mediterranean region. Vitex is now grown with great success in the Southern United States. When planted in the right soil and given a little bit of upkeep, chaste tree can be a visibly appealing presence lining your walkway or thriving on your patio.
Natural Alternative for Hormone Balance
Before we take to the garden, let’s look at some of the ways chaste tree is thought to support hormone balance in women. The herb is sometimes prescribed by herbalists to help ease PMS symptoms in women. Chaste tree is often suggested as a natural hormone balance for women who have menstrual difficulties or are coming off hormonal birth control. Some herbalists suggest the herb may support a woman’s reproductive system, or even support a pregnant mother’s health while she is in her very important first trimester.
Chaste tree is most famous for its reputation of being helpful for some women during menopause. Not only does Vitex provide hormone support for women going through menopause, but the herb can be helpful when enduring the vasomotor symptoms of menopause, namely hot flashes and night sweats. Chaste tree has also been found to support the cognitive health of certain women during their menstrual cycle.
A Winter-Hardy Herb
Whether you wish to use the plant to support your health or not, chase tree has the potential to improve your horticultural domain, especially in the winter. Vitex comes in an array of color varieties. Chaste tree species include Abbeville blue, Montrose purple, shoal creek (blue-violet), and silver spires. One of the unique characteristics of chaste tree is that it is one of very few “true blue” trees that can survive the winter. Some gardeners prefer the tree to lilacs for this reason.
A chaste tree can grow 10-20 feet tall when well tended. The tree can be a pleasant presence as a stand-alone, in a row, or with lowering plants beneath it. Chaste tree grows best with full sun where it can be well-drained. Some sources suggest avoiding organic mulches such as bark, shredded wood or straw. Instead, a general-purpose fertilizer is recommended every year or two. Regular pruning is also recommended to keep the tree at its healthiest.
Another attractive feature of chaste tree is that it is considered an excellent honey plant since it attracts bees. That said, the tree may be avoided by some gardeners for this very reason. As for other small creatures, chaste tree is said to not draw any serious pests.
Whether in the form of a supplement or as a member of your landscape, Vitex agnus-castus has the potential to benefit your livelihood. Or perhaps you wish to do both by growing your own trees, since the berries can be harvested, dried, and made into a tincture in your home. As a winter-hardy herb, chaste tree can promote your vitality, and garden, year-round.